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At UN, Turkish Cypriot Community Has Rare Diplomatic Status, Non State Envy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 28 -- The UN is best described as a club of nation states. There are, however, exceptions: non-state actors which are treated for some purposes as states. This is the case of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

  Back on September 25 when Dervis Eroglu of the TRNC took questions from the Press after a photo op / meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked on camera about UN special part time envoy Alexander Downer, and off camera about what type of UN identification pass the TRNC diplomats were using.

  On October 27 the question was answered. Among with meeting the Ambassador or Permanent Representative of the TRNC, Inner City Press spoke with the TRNC's Sertac Guven, whose business card listed him as “Third Secretary” with an address on the 9th floor of 821 UN Plaza, home of the UN Mission of Turkey. Both had “D” or diplomatic passes to the UN - in the name of “Turkish Cypriot Community.”

Inner City Press asked what other non-state actors have this special status. Guven said there was at least one other, but he couldn't remember the name. (The Polisario Front of Western Sahara comes to mind.)

As to the TRNC, Inner City Press is told that its special UN status dates back to 1968, and that Pakistan and Bangladesh, proponents of partition, briefly recognized the TRNC around 1973, before US pressure made them retract recognition. (This brings to mind Nicaragua's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.)

While the TRNC cannot speak in the General Assembly or Security Council, because of the UN's involvement in their talks with the Greek Cypriots, it's said that two parties are treated as equals while on UN land. So it's a social club of sovereign states - with at least two exceptions.

Dervis Eroglu of TRNC, UN "D" Diplomatic pass not shown

This might explain, for example, the reluctance of Colombia to allow the UN, even such offices as that on Children and Armed Conflict, to speak with rebels like the FARC.

And so more and more questions. Why not Somaliland? Until last year, why not Tamil Eelam? The questions could go on and on. And they are questions we'll pursue -- watch this site.

Footnote: this week the UN was asked about widespread reports that staff of part time envoy Alexander Downer was the source of the leak of UN Department of Political Affairs documents about Cyprus. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said he had never heard of the controversy, leaving both Turkish and Greek journalists shaking their heads. We'll have more on this.

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On Cyprus, Two Views of Downer, “No Right to Be Exhausted,” Disclosure Still Lacking, Lobbying Not Precluded

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- The President of Cyprus Dimitris Christofias, and leader of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Dervis Eroglu, talked at cross purposes to the Press at the UN on September 24 and 25.

  Inner City Press asked each about the performance of UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer, a former Australian diplomat who now moonlights with the business consultancy Bespoke Approach.

   Eroglu had been quoted that the Greek Cypriots are “exhausting Downer's patience.” When Inner City Press asked Christofias about the quote, he replied that “Alexander Downer has no right to be exhausted. He's a Special Adviser of the UN Secretary General for two years, maybe less than two years... We have to be patient.” Video here, from Minute 18:15.

  Inner City Press waited until the next morning to ask Eroglu the same question. Eroglu denied his quote in the Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris, by way of Famagusta Gazette, adopted the more diplomatic position that Downer must be and is neutral. This was said in Turkish, through an interpreter. Eroglu added in English, to Inner City Press, that Downer is “young.. enough.”

In fact, Downer was walking jauntily about the UN this week. Some wondered whether his ubiquity was entirely related to his Cyprus portfolio for the UN, or might be related to or assist in his private for profit work for the clients of Bespoke Approach.

Inner City Press has several times asked Downer to disclose his outside business interests and clients, so that possible conflicts of interest could be assessed. Downer has refused, insisting that his work for example for Chinese firms wanting to do business in Australia has nothing to do with Cyprus.

UN's Ban and the parties (former TRNC) &
Downer, dislosure not shown

But consider this: a part time Special Adviser or Special Representative like Alexander Downer, or Tony Blair, or Matthew Nimitz, is given full access to the UN. People including world leaders will take these people's call, sometimes in part due to the UN connection. Can this be abused? Should there be disclosure and then reform? Watch this site.

Footnote: Eroglu's stakeout took place before 10 a.m. on Saturday in the UN's Temporary North Lawn Building. While security outside on First Avenue and 42nd Street was post-Obama being dismantled, inside the UN buzzed with bilateral meetings.

 Inner City Press spoke, for forthcoming stories, with for example the Permanent Representatives of Uganda and South Africa, in the midst of bilateral meetings, and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. The mood was collegial, with an air of relief that the most tense part of the General Debate is over. The Permanent Representative of Malaysia asked Inner City Press, “Working on Saturday?” Yes. Watch this site.

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Ban's Envoy Downer Calls His Business with Huawei "Private" From UN, Zerihoun Leaving Cyprus?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- "I have my private life," Alexander Downer told the Press on Tuesday." It's mine and it's private." Video here, at Minute 36.

  Inner City Press had asked Downer, the part time chief of the UN's Good Offices role for Cyprus, whether the fact that his employer Bespoke Approach represents Chinese technology firm Huawei, which does business in Turkey, showed a need for UN rules against the appearance of conflict of interest.

  "With the greatest respect," Downer said, "I might know more about this that you... Ipso facto -- it's my business."

  Previously, Downer has told Inner City Press that there can be no conflict of interest because Bespoke Approach's clients don't do business in Cyprus or, by implication, Turkey or Greece, which have direct interests in Mr. Downer's UN work.

  Now that Downer has confirmed that Bespoke Approach represents Huawei, which itself brags on its website about its Turkey business, the question is squarely raised: why doesn't the UN prohibit or have rules about this?

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has promised transparency, and has urged his senior officials -- although apparently not part time officials like Downer -- to publicly disclose their financial holdings.

  But on Tuesday, Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky tried to cut off the question by saying, "Matthew, the Secretary General chose Mr. Downer [based on] his demonstrated integrity. I don't think one needs to say more than that." Video here, from 37:52.

  But what about having generally applicable rules? If confidence in particular individuals' integrity was enough, Mr. Ban wouldn't have urged public disclosure of financial holdings to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.

UN's Ban and Downer, rules against conflicts of interest not shown

  While Inner City Press asked two questions about the Cyprus process, Downer sought to not answer them, saying to Inner City Press, "You're not really interested in Cyprus."

One of the questions concerned Cypriot president Demetris Christofias' request to Qatar's Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani that Qatar get involved in the Cyprus process. How did Downer think this would dovetail, or not, with his work?

Downer said, This is a UN process, Mr. Christofias and Mr. [Dervis] Eroglu are aware of that.

Only at the end of his press conference did Downer, once reminded, consent to answer Inner City Press' other question, about the relation of his work with that of Mr. Ban's current representative to Cyprus, Taye-Brook Zerihoun. He runs UNFICYP and I run the Good Offices, Downer said. He is my deputy on the Good Offices. "You are very interested in this.. I am only part time, Mr. Zerihoun has filled in" for me and comes to meetings even when I am there.

Inner City Press had, during Nesirky's briefing while Downer waited to speak, asked what something it heard and reported yesterday, that Zerihoun is being recalled to UN Headquarters to replace Haile Menkerios, now in South Sudan, in the Africa Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs. When Inner City Press asked if Nesirky could confirm, he said "Not at the moment, but I'll find out." Video here, from Minute 17:03.

When Inner City Press asked Downer if he was aware of Zerihoun, which whom Downer said he plays golf, leaving the Cyprus post as early as May 1, Downer said that was for the S-G and his spokesman to answer. Video here, from Minute 46:22. Nesirky said, "I've already answered that." Inner City Press replied, no, you said you didn't know, you'd find out.

Ironically, not only Ambassadors and people in the Department of Political Affairs were speaking about Zerihoun's getting the job, so was another spokesperson at the UN. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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